A bill to offer LGBT Floridians protection against workplace discrimination is to come up for another vote today in a state Senate committee after conservatives raised hackles about how, in the words of one Republican lawmaker, "you could have a lot of weirdos doing weird things in bathrooms."
The bill is the first in a decade to even reach a vote in the Senate Judiciary committee, which deadlocked 6-6 on SB 120 Monday following a contentious debate, the Orlando Sentinelreports. Lawmakers engaged in two hours of heated debate, tossing around such phrases as "anatomical male" and "male parts," which are not in any way mentioned in the bill, which would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill has the support of numerous large corporations, which see it as beneficial to Florida's business climate.
Sen. David Simmons, a Republican, tried to broker a compromise with social conservatives on the panel, who feared the measure would allow sexual predators access to women's bathrooms and locker rooms.
"This bill would allow an anatomical male to undress as a public accommodation in a gymnasium?" Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes asked over and over. As in Houston, there is unfounded fear of a sexual predator masquerading as transgender to molest women or girls, something that has never materialized in any jurisdiction where trans individuals can use the bathroom or locker room matching their gender identity.
"The purpose and the spirit of this bill is that gay and transgender people have equal access to public accommodations," said Carlos Guillermo-Smith, a lobbyist for Equality Florida and a Democratic candidate for the state legislature.
Supporters of the bill said the bathroom discussion distracted lawmakers from that purpose.
"Right now under Florida law you can say to an employee, 'We're going to fire you because you are gay.' That is legal," said bill sponsor Sen. Joe Abruzzo, a Democrat.
But to address conservative concerns, Simmons added an amendment to "clarify," according to the Sentinel, that any transgender individual who claimed they were access to a bathroom or locker room matching their gender identity would have to show documentation of their medical history or some other "long-standing evidence" of their gender identity.
The amendment wasn't enough for Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Republican who voiced his concern the bill could lead to "a lot of weirdos doing weird things in bathrooms. Men or women," and a "cottage industry" of attorneys whose only ambition was to file LGBT discrimination lawsuits.